Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake

Justin Added A Telling "Cry Me A River" Intro After Britney Backlash

But fans don’t seem to be buying it.

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Justin Timberlake’s “Cry Me A River” has always been a certifiable bop, cloaked in controversy. In 2002, the song’s music video implied that Britney Spears’ cheated on Timberlake, spurring an onslaught of tabloid gossip that villified Spears. But that public perception changed when Spears’ memoir The Woman In Me came out in October — and judging by Timberlake’s December performance of “Cry Me A River,” he knows it.

On Dec. 13, Timberlake had a surprise Las Vegas performance, the second time he’s stepped on stage since Spears’ book release. During the show, he performed his hits, including “Cry Me A River,” but added a telling intro to the song. “No disrespect, but, uh,” Timberlake said before singing the track.

Timberlake might have meant “no disrespect” by the performance, but fans didn’t necessarily take it that way. “Him still singing this knowing what we know don’t sit right w/ my spirit,” one TikTok usre wrote. Another commented, “This song tore apart Britney and 20 years later he’s still singing it.”

It was the first time Timberlake seemed to hint at his knowledge of Spears’ memoir, in which she claimed they both cheated on each other. In Spears’ book, per Us Weekly, she cheated once with choreographer Wade Robson, while Timberlake cheated “a couple of times” with different women.

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Spears’ claims came as a surprise to fans since the song always hinted at Timberlake being the victim of infidelity. Plus, according to Us Weekly, in Timberlake’s 2018 book Hindsight: & All the Things I Can’t See in Front of Me, he wrote about the song’s inspiration: “I’ve been scorned. I’ve been pissed off. I wrote ‘Cry Me a River’ in two hours. I didn’t plan on writing it.”

“The feelings I had were so strong that I had to write it, and I translated my feelings into a form where people could listen and, hopefully, relate to it. People heard me and they understood it because we’ve all been there,” Timberlake continued.

Timberlake seemed to have a change of heart 2021 when the Free Britney movement was in full swing. At the time, clips of “Cry Me A River” (along with other videos of Timberlake discussing his and Spears’ sex life) went viral. Timberlake apologized on Instagram in February 2021.

“I've seen the messages, tags, comments, and concerns and I want to respond,” Timberlake wrote at the time. “I am deeply sorry for the times in my life where my actions contributed to the problem, where I spoke out of turn, or did not speak up for what was right. I understand that I fell short in these moments and in many others and benefited from a system that condones misogyny.”